John M. Becker

The Fox Effect: Marriage Opponents Don't Know They've Lost

Filed By John M. Becker | March 12, 2014 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: confirmation bias, gay marriage, GOP, marriage discrimination, marriage equality, religious right, Republican Party, same-sex marriage, tipping point

One of the most enduring memories of the 2012 presidential race is the on-air meltdown of Republican political strategist Karl Rove after the Fox News decision desk called the state of Ohio -- and the presidency -- for incumbent Barack Obama. Immersed in an intensely biased right-wing, pro-Romney media environment and rashly confident of an impending victory despite clear evidence to the contrary, Rove simply could not accept the reality of defeat for his candidate and his party.

According to the results of a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, opponents of marriage equality are currently caught in a Karl Rove moment of their own.

lady_blocking_ears.jpgThe poll, which I wrote about earlier this month, found that 53% of Americans support the freedom to marry, with only 41% opposed. But of that 41% who endorse marriage discrimination, nearly two-thirds (falsely) believe that the majority of the country stands with them. And only about two in ten agreed with the (correct) statement that the American public supports same-gender marriage.

To be fair, as the Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham points out, most Americans are unaware of how widespread support for marriage equality is. Only 34% of all respondents knew that the majority favors it, largely due to the fact that public opinion on the issue has shifted so quickly.

But Republicans, firmly ensconced in the Fox News alternate universe (where Obama is a socialist dictator and health reform means death panels), are a special case. The right-wing media echo chamber frequently amplifies notorious homophobes like Brian Brown and hate group leaders like Tony Perkins, who blather on constantly about how a "majority of Americans" oppose marriage equality.

Of course, that hasn't actually been true in over three years, but facts don't matter in the echo chamber -- loud repetition does. Call it the "Fox Effect": if you lie often enough and loudly enough, people will eventually believe it's true.

Throw in the natural human tendency to favor information that confirms one's beliefs, and it's no small wonder that most equality opponents are living in a world that looks more like 2004 than 2014.

This doesn't bode well for the future of the Republican Party: a new Pew Poll shows that 61% of GOP-leaning voters under the age of 29 support the freedom to marry.

And a survey conducted last year by the College Republican National Committee found that about half of young, pro-equality Republicans view the issue as a deal-breaker, meaning that they would vote against a candidate who opposed marriage equality even if they agreed with them on issues like taxes, spending, immigration, and defense.

The writing on the wall is clear, and the message is simple: on marriage equality, the Republican Party needs to change or die. They simply must turn away from the anti-gay echo chamber and embrace the freedom to marry. Their very future depends on it.


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